Risk, by its very definition, is the embracing of uncertainty, potential harm, or even danger. By choosing risk, we walk into the unknown, rich with promise that could go either direction. We are accepting the fact that we must have the resilience to cope with any outcome.
Years ago, I had agonizing choices to make. Did I leave my children in the security of a rural educational system that clearly was not serving them or did I defy the conventions of our little community and chart a new path? I chose to believe in my children’s possibilities.
This was the nineties, when homeschooling was rare, misunderstood, and came with a totally unknown future. We didn’t know if there were college options at all, much less a selective college. Many normal kid activities and competitions were closed to my children. There were very few online classes. There was always the threat of jail. It cost my husband his job and I lost my place in our community. We had to change churches. It felt like jumping off a cliff without a parachute.
Things have changed. Homeschooling is now fashionable. There are abundant resources – professionally run co-ops, online schools, a proliferation of AP classes, as well as relaxed relationships with public and private schools. Homeschoolers are winning prestigious scholarships, allowed in major award competitions, and are populating the best colleges.
And yet, many homeschoolers are less willing than ever to challenge the status quo that is now to be found within the safety nets of the vetted homeschool options. They come to me for advice and want permission to take a risky path, but they also want the assurance that everything will be okay in the end. Yet, we all know, deep in our hearts, that risk doesn’t work that way.
We must always keep in mind, however, that there are two sides of risk. We tend, as homeschoolers, to see only the ranging off into uncharted territory as risky. However, even the “safety” of the checklist has risks. Perhaps we follow all that we are supposed to do and yet our student does not get into the college we want or does not win the competition. We can obey the rules and still not achieve our goals. Worse yet, following the rules might damage our child, cause them not to explore unconventional delights, maybe even bring them harm. My husband is convinced that choosing safety for our children could easily have resulted in our son committing suicide in his despair over the total lack of qualified teachers or engaged peers in this little community and that our extroverted daughter would have become a juvenile delinquent given her early love of fitting in and popularity. For us, safety would have been the bigger gamble. I am happy to report that our sacrifices and our unconventional choices produced two young adults who grounded, well-adjusted, happy, and have a strong internal compass. They found their people once they got to college and now have friends all over the world.
So my question for you today would be: which risk? Whichever way you choose, there are no guarantees in this life. But sometimes, safety can be the biggest risk of all.
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